Richard Holden


It is with great sorrow that we inform you that our dear friend, choreographer, and balalaika player, Richard Holden has passed away.

Richard G. Holden a Lifetime of dance, deceased October 14, 2015.

Richard born in Braintree, Massachusetts in 1927, was drawn to the dance world at an early age, and was extremely fortunate to have encountered a Russian teacher who made Richard part of his dance troupe. He was hooked on Russian folk music and character and folk dance; they were his life passion.

In England, he danced and studied the esoteric Benesh technique of transcribing dance steps into written symbols. After graduating from the London Institute of Choreology, he was invited by Dame Alicia Markova to join the dance company of the Metropolitan Opera Company at Lincoln Center, NY. He later became a soloist and the Met’s resident choreologist. As a choreologist and assistant ballet master he worked with many notables of the dance world and with renowned companies, including the Harkness Ballet and American Ballet Theater.

During this career, he was invited to Tucson, to start and subsequently direct the Tucson Civic Ballet. Richard choreographed ballets with regional themes, such as “Brooms of Mexico” (in collaboration with Ted DeGrazia) and “Round Up,” a comic, rough and ready cowboy ballet.

Following retirement he settled in Tucson, but continued his contributions to the dance world. He choreographed ballets for several of the Tucson ballet schools including Upstairs-Downstairs and Two-Pigeons. On multiple occasions, he was invited by the Arizona State Opera Company to choreograph and stage dance interludes for their operas.

He wrote dance reviews for the Tucson Weekly and he continued to write a regular column “Speaking of Dance” for the newsletter of the Balalaika and Domra Association of American (BDAA).

Russian speaking and a self-admitted Russophile, he was delighted to find the Arizona Balalaika Orchestra upon arriving in Tucson. He joined immediately and learned to play the balalaika. And then Richard created the Kalinka Russian Dance Ensemble. It was an integral part of Arizona Balalaika Orchestra’s concerts from 1989 to 2007. His choreographic and staging contributions were unique. He transported us to the world of folk dance creating over 40 dances in the spirit of Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, and Jewish folk dances, as well as those inspired by the famous Moseyev Russian folk dance company. Richard danced with his Kalinka dancers until his 75th birthday! It was a tremendous partnership.

RichardHolden-Lifetime-Achievement-AwardIn 2014 he received the “Arizona Dance Coalition Lifetime Achievement Award.”

He didn’t give up his love of Russian folk music and played in the Arizona Balalaika Orchestra until a few months before his death. A Memorial Service will be held at a later date. Arrangements by NEPTUNE SOCIETY.

Published in the Arizona Daily Star on Oct. 22, 2015

Further tributes may be found here,

as well as Recollections by Richard, himself.

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